Why New Year’s Resolutions Fail (+8 principles for goals that stick!)

Morning coffee cup, empty paper list, pencil, and bouquet of white flowers eustoma on blue rustic table from above. Woman working desk. Cozy breakfast. Flat lay styling.


It's the time of year when we all have a few days to rest up and reflect on 2017 in preparation for another year. The beginning of a new year is an exciting time! It evokes feelings of a clean slate, a fresh start. So, we begin our resolution-making frenzy. Gyms are full, Whole Foods is busy, cleanse kits are purchased, running trails are more crowded, scales have been dusted off. But, despite all our best intentions, fewer than 8% of people are successful at achieving their resolutions at the close of the year. Shoot! I don’t know too many people who have not thrown in the towel by March!

So, why do we fail? How is it that our resolutions do not inspire us to stick with it for the ENTIRE year? Now, here at H4H we are not those people who give up and say, “Forget it, don’t do a thing. It doesn’t work anyway.” No way, remember, Hearts for Health, is about progress, not perfection; failing forward; taking time to set achievable goals yet reassess when necessary. By preparing with intention, you can make 2018 your best year yet. Below you will find our tips to create a 2018 goal list that you can achieve AND look back at and be proud of.



The American idea of a New Year resolution is frequently a lofty achievement with no benchmarks and no deadline, often very little thought goes into it. It is something we SAY, not something we DO. "I will run a marathon, I will get skinny, I will be a manager," etc. But the dictionary definition of a resolution is quite the opposite. It is “the act of resolving or deciding upon a specific action, course, method or procedure.” This involves specifics, discipline, intention, and WORK. Very different from our cultural understanding.

Instead of “resolutions” we choose to make goals. A goal is the “the result or achievement toward which effort is directed; the aim; the end.” Basically, goals are resolving (now an action) to achieve a specific endpoint. You begin with the end in mind, but you set specific achievable benchmarks to hit monthly, weekly, even daily. If you want to run a marathon, you might start by purchasing gear, finding plans, walking, running a certain number of days each week and increasing as the year goes on. Notice it is incremental. Small changes over a period of time.

Goals should give you long-term vision (an endgame) and short-term motivation (incremental benchmarks). You feel much better about yourself when you can tangibly see some forward progress.

Frame your goals in a positive light, don’t focus on the I WON’Ts focus on the WILL DOs.




Knowing your "why" is a central tenet of habit change. Personally, I (Carly) want to make changes because I want to be the healthiest and happiest person I can be. I want to be able to make a difference as a nurse practitioner in functional medicine. I need to take care of myself first in order to ensure I can help my patients.

When I came from a place of wanting a smaller number on the scale, as my only measure of "success", I truly struggled. If I didn't reach the numeric goal, every other small victory seemed inconsequential. Focus on that larger "why" and meeting goals will feel more rewarding.

Separate the things that are important (what you can achieve, how you can help others) from the things that are irrelevant (how you look). Having a good strong why will help you to choose where you want to go in life. “I want to be healthy to better serve my patients” is far more attainable and important than “I want to be skinny.” Take time to think and make your goals very personal to you.



Goal setting is sort of like working backward. Visualize your year-end achievements. Then break them down into smaller monthly benchmarks, then weekly, then daily. Make your goals SMART. This is the what, why and how.

  • Specific – simple and clearly defined
  • Measurable – smaller short-term sub-goals to give you tangible evidence you are moving forward
  • Achievable – stretch slightly to challenge yourself, but not so lofty you throw in the towel
  • Results focused – measure outcome, not activity; this allows you to reassess if needed
  • Time-bound – A time frame with a realistic goal gives you an appropriate sense of urgency to keep you motivated


Carly and I, Kristen, both want to read books this year. That could be a book a month, which would, in turn, be a chapter each day or every couple days depending on length, and then we would need to set aside daily time dedicated to that reading.

Make fewer resolutions and focus on them. List everything, then pare it down. Intentionally consider the amount of time you have for any given effort. I like to make categories and set no more than 3 goals, often times only 1, for each category:

  • Career – This pertains to my work, in the home or out
  • Finance
  • Education – formal school or no, how will I personally better myself this year?
  • Family - How will I intentionally spend time with my kids
  • Marriage
  • Health/Fitness
  • Spiritual
  • Attitude/Habits
  • Fun – you absolutely should plan for fun and downtime!




Make your goals realistic to your life. Carly wants to read 52 books, she does not have kids nor maintains a household (although she IS in nursing school!). Kristen, however, has several kids who she homeschools. Accounting for the extreme lack of time, she will set her list at 12 nonfiction books for the year. Anything more is just bonus!

  • Step away from major overhauls
  • Celebrate small wins
  • Use the moments you feel resolved, to prepare for when you falter
  • Always reassess, the more rigid you are, the less attainable your goals


Keep in mind your goal could be something as simple as taking time to be more mindful if that is all you have the time and energy to do. Many years ago I, Kristen, literally had to start this small. What I did not know was mindfulness has been shown to be as effective as antidepressants. Just the simple act of changing from autopilot in your life to a position of control over your situation has profound positive health implications! You could do something as simple as installing a deep breathing app and set some reminders to breathe and be intentional and see how far that alone can take you.

The idea is not to do more but rather to focus well on those things which you have chosen.



Although January 1 is an idyllic and exciting time, you may be setting yourself for disaster to hit GO on 1/1. After the chaos and hustle and bustle of the holiday season, I like to use this time for prep work and to set some new habits for a period of time before I hit the ground running. When I get back into my routine I assess: Where can I spare time? What needs adjustment? What habits will get me where I need to go? Preparation is key to success!

Furthermore, January is cold! I, Kristen, function terribly in cold weather. I use this time to build, rest and nourish before I choose to cut things out. In real life what this looks like: not planning too much activity, walking as opposed to running; build in time for more sleep, less coffee; focus on nourishing soups and nutrients dense meats and root veggies; hot herbal teas that facilitate gut repair; warm Epsom soaks. Come spring, we bump up the activity, the early mornings, the cleansing smoothies and salads, all when our bodies are naturally in this mode. Essentially my “new year” starts in March, although I set my goals in January. Tune into what feels right for you seasonally.



Y'all know me, Carly, I could never write a post about goals without mentioning my favorite happiness author, Gretchen Rubin. She proposes a few different frameworks for understanding ourselves better. After employing a few of her strategies, my goal-setting and maintenance success has improved tremendously. "Know thyself" has proved to be an amazing strategy.

  1. Are you an abstainer or a moderator? For example, it's easier for you to never eat chocolate than to eat a little bit. That's me!
  2. When responding to an expectation, what is your tendency?Upholder, obliger, questioner, or rebel. I'm an upholder. Look out for the post later this week on this specific aspect of habit change!
  3. Are you an over-buyer or an under-buyer? For example: Do you tend to avoid purchasing paper towels, waiting until you are out? Or do you "stock up" just in case?



As an Upholder, it's not so much the accountability portion of goal-setting that I struggle with. I tend to get very excited at the beginning of the year and make lists of 20+ habits to all start January 1. Trying to be "perfect" in every area of your life, starting in the New Year, very rarely works for habit change!

This year I am scaling back, see below!



Write your goals down, otherwise, they’re just a dream 😉 Take a moment at the beginning of each month to review them and make adjustments as needed. Just the act of reading through them should inspire/motivation you. Do not think in terms of success or failure, just observe where you are and make adjustments as necessary and keep on. Remember, we are making progress, not perfection!



The very act of goal setting and choosing to improve yourself is a success, be proud. Encourage yourself at every step. Start by making a positive list. Think “I WILL nourish my body” not “I won’t eat sugar and suffer.” Celebrate all your victories no matter how big or small, whether its feeling rested when you wake or having more energy and the ability to exercise.  Think of ways to treat yourself that are not food: a nap, a massage, time out with a friend, binge on a show.

Furthermore, when you think positive you harness the power of your brain's neuroplasticity. "The more you train your brain to avoid limiting thoughts, the more you will look at challenges as the path to mastery rather than a risk of failure." Our thoughts literally change the structure and function of our brains!




For this year, I am setting two words as my overall intention of how I would like my year to go. I'm also making monthly goals to keep me focused and on track, as well as a list of 10 things to do in 2018 (based on experiences, not just goals). With all of these guidelines in place, here are some of my goals/habits I want to establish in 2018.


My two words of intention:


In 2017, I went a long way in conquering a lot of my fears (hello, driving on the interstate and singing solos at church!). I feel strong, empowered, and independent. I've still got a lot to conquer, so I'm striving to get out of my comfort zone this year.


I am also striving for peace in the year of 2018. I want to feel peace with what has happened in the past, what is happening in the present, and what the future will hold. Life has a lot of ups and downs, and I want to cope with unexpected problems with grace.

Things to do in 2018:

  1. Read 52 books.
  2. Make straight A's in nursing school (3 semesters in 2018).
  3. Go to Disney World.
  4. Get out of my comfort zone.
  5. Consistently meditate using HeartMath 5 minutes/ 5 days a week.
  6. Attend 25 yoga classes (1 per 2 weeks).
  7. Write down best "moments" on slips of paper, save them in a mason jar for the end of the year.

Month-by-Month, for January I've got two more specific goals.

  1. Re-establish a consistent sleep and supplement routine (for healing from CIRS- mold illness).
  2. Meditate 5 minutes nightly using HeartMath breathing app and tracker.

I hope this helps as you start your new year on a positive note. What are some of your goals for this year? Please comment below or interact with us on Instagram with any of your thoughts. We would LOVE to hear from you!

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